In an interview with Esquire in January this year, director Matt Reeves had said another Batman film “shouldn’t have to carry the weight of connecting the characters from all those other movies [in the DC Universe]. I didn’t want them in there.” True to his words, in The Batman, Reeves delivers a thriller that can stand on its two feet devoid of the ‘superhero’ genre, and a Batman who is rooted in realism.
Divorced from the DC universe, The Batman is the first of a new Batman film trilogy. It has been produced by Warner Bros., but its release has been halted in Russia due to the ongoing Ukraine crisis.
The many Batman(s)
Much like his contemporaries in the same and different universes — Spiderman and Superman — the character of Batman has been a darling among filmmakers. To put it in perspective, Robert Pattinson is our eighth live-action caped crusader on the silver screen. Among a hoard of renditions, interpretations in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Zack Snyder’s Justice League universe are often touted as the frontrunners, at least from a commercial standpoint in contemporary times.
Christian Bale, known to undergo rigorous physical transformations for his roles, portrayed a Batman who swung between the charming Bruce Wayne and brooding superhero in the three-part series. Ben Affleck, on the other hand, presented a ‘mature’ version who wasn’t playing solo. He might be more than competent to do so, but, for the sake of ‘larger good’, worked in the confines of a team. On the face of it, you might feel that Pattinson lies somewhere in between, but I would go out on a limb to say that he is, perhaps, the best portrayal of the revered superhero we have ever seen.
The makers and Pattinson had received flak for the casting choice in the beginning, but Reeves’ intricately articulate storyline and vision does not just address the paranoia but also assures the fans of an exciting future ahead. Reeves, who also wrote the film alongside Peter Craig, is not enamoured by Batman’s seductive world — high-tech gadgets, a plethora of advanced automobiles at billionaire Bruce Wayne’s disposal, car-chase scenes, and the psychological trauma triggered by the loss of parents — but goes for the more Sherlock-esque quality of Batman: His skills as a detective. The bewitching world of Bruce Wayne, and by extension, Batman, is strategically grounded and rarely brought to the fore.
The convoluted world of vigilante justice
In an early scene in The Batman, Robert Pattinson catches a bunch of face-painted hooligans off guard while they harassed a civilian on a Halloween night in Gotham. while they were harassing a civilian. As the ringleader asks him who he was, he says, “I am vengeance” before he thrashes them all to the ground. The man he saved pleads for his life to Batman instead of thanking him, which reminds one of what Pattinson said early on in the film that “fear is a tool” — one that instils terror in the eyes of the civilian by both the hooligans and the ‘saviour’, bringing forth the complexity of taking law and order in one’s hands.
Later in the film, when Batman attempts to avoid a catastrophe (all in vain) and a group of vigilantes let loose by the Riddler (Paul Dano), one of the masked men introduces himself as ‘vengeance’, leaving Batman questioning his ‘moral’ code. “I have had an effect [on the people] but not the one I intended…,” says Bruce after the tragedy.
Vigilante justice is a theme many superheroes across multiple universes subscribe to. What separates them from the so-called antagonists is the fundamental principle of not killing someone. While many superhero films have touched upon this theme and the problems that come along with it, Reeves does not shy away from unmasking the flaws of this complicated ideology.
Pattinson’s Batman is self-aware and understands that choices have consequences. However, there are limitations to what he can comprehend and perceive. At one point, Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), calls him out on his myopic view of Gotham and says, “… you must have grown rich”, reminding him of his privilege. In another instance, she says, “…you assume the worst in people”, underlining his sheltered life as a white man.
Towards the end of the film, when Batman comes face to face with the Riddler, the serial killer dissects the unwarranted fame that landed in Bruce’s lap after his parents’ death. In a powerful monologue, the Riddler shatters Bruce’s perception of an ‘orphan’ and how it means differently to a child living in a mansion and another among a room of 30 other children in a battered orphanage, all within the city of Gotham.
It is because of these subplots in the world of a superhero that The Batman shines.
Medley of good characters
The Batman is three-hour-long, but the pace only works in its favour. Every character is delicately fleshed out and given the time to breathe and grow on you. Be it the infamous Penguin (played by the unrecognisable Colin Farrell), the good cop James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) or the ever-reliable Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), each character has a place of its own.
Kravitz’s Catwoman is not playing a second fiddle to Pattinson’s Batman and stands tall in every frame. Unlike her predecessors (Anne Hathaway and Halle Berry), Kravitz plays a more nuanced version of Catwoman. She is fierce and independent but is also receptive to a difference in opinion. Her modus operandi may vary from Batman or the Riddler, but she also understands the value of teamwork (as long as her interests are guarded). Kravitz is a classic example of subtlety — a tool Reeves uses quite often in this film.
Robert Pattinson nailed the part. After Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the Joker, Paul Dano’s sinister Riddler appears to be a worthy successor among the archnemesis of Batman. For once, when you see Pattinson in Hogwarts-esque Wayne Manor, you might see him as Cedric Diggory rising from the dead!
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)
Source: The Print